Sunday, 23 November 2014

Reverend J.R.Brown Rector of Lyons County Durham

As transcription of the Bromley Kent parish registers works through early twentieth century records it is worth noting the presence in the Ancient Parish of Bromley Saint Peter and Saint Paul of the rector of Bowes (or Easington Lane) County Durham apparently on a regular annual basis.
In the marriage register for Bromley from 1895-1904 Reverend Arthur Gresley Hellicar is Vicar and John M Tamplin is curate. Other clergy from Bromley parishes conduct marriages also on an occasional basis but a regular signature of Brown appears each summer.
Both Tamplin and Brown are prone to mistakes in the register which are corrected by their initials;whether as a result of Hellicar's vigilance or the intervention of the Bromley Superintendent Registrar is seldom clear.
Brown's signature appears each August/early September from 1897 and it is intriguing why he should visit Bromley annually. He clearly is challenged by some local street names and names of people!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Freelands Bromley dog

In 1810 the Freelands Widmore Bromley mansion was occupied under a lease by Charles Boone Esquire.
He was a patient of Doctor Thomas Ilott and the various members of the household which had a dairy maid, gardeners and domestic servants. In the Folio C prescription ledger of Doctor Ilott both in 1809 and September 1810 Ilott provides a prescription for a dog clearly billed in the account ledger.
It was not unusual for a surgeon who was also a skilled apothecary to use lotions or creams which could treat both humans and animals and vetinary science had not at that time developed distinct from medical practice.
In 1809 Charles Boone paid a total of £29 to Ilott for household medical care and prescriptions;in 1810 £41 5shillings of which one shilling was for care of the dog.
In addition to the dog treatment the account is significant in identifying Charles Boone as resident from 1809-1811 in a period when several occupiers leased the mansion. Some years later Freelands was sold.
Th incident of the dog has provided Bromley Archives with additional material for November 2014 explore archives Twitter week. The transcripts for Ilott are a work in progress for online publication in 2015.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The occupation of Upholder: Dunn and Company Funeral accounts

The Bromley parish registers contain many ancient crafts or trades and it becomes clear to the transcriber of the complete series of registers that some trades found in the early history of the town persist to the twentieth century.
As I transcribe marriages in 1895-1905 marriage register I am reminded of one of these by the entry of Upholder.
In each century I have transcribed entries relating to this ancient trade. The Worshipful Company of Upholders of the City of London can trace its origins back to earlier days of Craft Guilds which concentrated on the high quality of  workmanship and of English manufactured goods. The Worshipful Company elected wardens from 1360 onwards who had a duty to inspect the quality of goods and from 1474 had power to seize goods in the City of London which were of inferior quality.
The Bromley references in early records to Uphouldesterr and Uphelderr and later as Upholder are applied to Upholstery in the town and one of the most influential businesses Dunn and Company (later H G Dunn and Sons Limited) of Market Square was founded on such trade. It later expanded from drapery and Furniture sales and delivery to removals and storage as well as Funeral Directors in the nineteenth century. The craft of Funeral upholstery was well established within the Guild memberhip and Dunn'sis  a good example of both crafts maintained side by side.The business included cabinet making,funeral directors,drapery soft furnishing auctioneer and valuers; all part and parcel of the Upholder.
The Worshipful Company of Upholders website includes much of the craft history.
Kent Online Parish Clerks have an agreement with Bromley Archive to transcribe the Dunn and Company Funeral Directors Account ledgers in 2015. These records from the nineteenth century until the Second World War are detailed accounts of funeral arrangements and include details of who paid the funeral account. The first account book dates from 1803-1807; the final surviving ledger is for 1934. The accounts include many funeral societies from the City of London to benefit a wide variety of occupations. The first 11 books will cover the period to 1918. It was only in 1914 that Herbert George Dunn registered the company as H G Dunn and Sons Limited.
The pilot transcription sampled the card index compiled by Jean Rawlings for the period 1803-1839. The arrangement of cards and references to account pages was found to be problematic and the aim is therefore to compile a complete index for each volume of accounts. This will avoid the problems of one card containing seperate burial accounts and account names which lead the searcher to incorrect volume and pages.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Downe memorial to those who died in World War 1

In rememberance this month of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1 or as the Brass memorial plaque in the parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin puts it the "Great War" I visited the Tower of London to see the installation entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red with 888,246 hand made ceramic poppies covering the moat.
The war dead of Downe are commerated in the parish church and are listed. Helpfully the Imperial War Museum web site Lives of the First World War is being developed for Downe and has the oppurtunity for anyone to develop biographies of each man  and remember individuals Downe War dead
I am happy to have purchased one of the ceramic poppies which will be removed from the installation after 11 November 2014 on behalf of Kent Online Parish Clerks and hope that in future it can form part of the village remberance.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Beckenham Resurrectionists

Beckenham churchyard experienced a problem for several years in the 1800's and the euphemism Resurrectionists was applied to the practice of disinterring bodies after burial and removal to the medical schools of London for dissection.
The Beckenham Parish accounts and Vestry minute records cite several incidents and Robert Borrowman in "Beckenham Past and Present" published Beckenham 1910 records the memories of at least one body reinterred at Beckenham.
Beckenham has one of the oldest Lych Gate roofs in the country. Lych gates or Corpse gates originated around the 7th century and were the point at which clergy met the funeral congregation and began the last rites for the deceased. The larger gates had a shelf for the corpse to rest upon. Most surviving lych gates are from the 15th century. However the Saint George Beckenham gate roof dates from the 13th century. The sides and foundation were restored by a grieving father in 1924 to commemorate the loss of two sons in the First World War and a plaque commemorates the restoration. The roof however is over 700 years old.
The church was originally built in the twelfth century and remained as a medieval church until it was taken down and the current town church was built in 1885-1887 by local architect W, Gibbs Bartleet. The tower was added in 1902-3. It's predecessor had suffered fire damage on 23 December 1790 when the medieval shingle spire was struck by lightning and burnt down causing damage to the church also.


In 1818 the Beckenham Parish Accounts record an entry for 11 shillings "paid 2 men for watching the Church 2 nights". The Watchers used to hide in the beams of the old Lych gate.
On 24 November 1822 certain bodies were removed from the churchyard;the perpetrators were apparently identified but no record of punishment survives and Borrowman records several examples of grave watching of recent burials.
The Vestry Minutes record that in 1823 William Arnold Parish Clerk was suspected of being complicit in removal of bodies and that by unanimous resolution that there was no grounds  whatsoever for giving information about burials of being involved with the theft of bodies. Arnold was exonerated by the Vestry.
Borrowman includes the memories of Beckenham people who describe an incident around 1826 of the burial of a schoolmaster followed next morning of the churchyard discovery of burial clothes and the coffin being found empty. The son of the deceased travelled to London and searched all of the hospitals and is said to have identified the partially dismembered corpse which was returned to Beckenham for reinterment.

Friday, 17 October 2014

A population record of Beckenham 1821

In the course of background research about Beckenham Parish in the 1800's to accompany my transcript of Doctor Thomas Ilott's practice prescription ledger I located the account about 1821 of the population record of Reverend Andrew Brandram curate to the parish. Brandram went on to become Rector of Beckenham and produced the following statistics. I think he was probably compiling a requisite report in 1821 as parishes were asked to do so every ten years for early population statistics. Bromley has a surviving return in one volume of its registers.
The population of Beckenham Parish is recorded as 1180 people 558 Males and 622 Females. Of the over 60 population Brandram records that there were 27 males and 39 females aged 60-70;16 males and 16 females aged 70-80 and 4 males and 6 females aged 80-90 years of age.
There were 196 inhabited houses and 15 houses "building" 3 of which were inhabited. The population contained 214 plowmans families 77 persons employed in agriculture and 46 employed in trade manufacture and handicraft the remainder of 91 not in these two categories.
This valuable population information lies behind the population figure for 1821 in published sources and the total figure on the Kent Online Parish Clerks Beckenham Parish page.
Beckenham had been the home of  William Merrick Surgeon who was highly regarded not least by the poor of the parish who mourned at his funeral in 1818.
From 1809 Doctor Thomas Ilott provides medical care to many of the major households and tradespeople of the village as well as being paid by the parish to care for the poor see Parish account transcript As I continue to transcribe household accounts it is evident that Doctor Ilott delivers the children of labourers and gentry alike and was inoculating children.
 Beckenham had from 1811 had many people suffer from typhus and scarlet fever as the burial register reflect.
Unfortunately research of Beckenham Baptisms and Burials prior to 1813 involves a heavily fire and water damaged register which has lost large areas of pages and water damage has washed away ink losing substantial areas  of information. The Ilott ledger records date of delivery of children and it is therefore possible to retrieve some partial entries from the Baptismal information where the date of birth is still visible. In one such example an older child of the family is baptised on the same day.
The Ilott ledger is therefore a significant record for searchers of Beckenham families in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Bromley Mister Pickwick

Charles Dickens published the 20 monthly instalments of his first novel between April 1836 and November 1837entitled The Pickwick Papers or the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club,Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations,Perils,Travels,Adventures and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members. Since then there has been a well documented tradition in Bromley that the original Mister Pickwick was based upon Robert Booth Rawes who with other mebers of his family lead a boarding school for boys.
The Pickwick Papers contains  within the Travels and Perambulations" an accurate description of coaching inns. Bromley had both stage coaching inns and several generations of the Weller family stage-coachmen. One wonders how familiar the 24 year old Charles Dickens may have been with Bromley and whether he had encountered the Wellers?
Rawes Academy was founded as a boarding school for boys as early as 1730 and was situated in Bromley High Street. There is no extant record of the founder however it is believed the Rawes family became involved in the 1780's. The Rates Books for  1787/8 assess messrs Booth and Rawes in the sum of £100 and various record sources identify Richard Rawes as churchwarden in 1789 so there is documentary evidence of his involvement in the school in the 1780's.
Other members of the family joined the school so that by the time of his retirement Richard had been succeeded by Robert Booth Rawes and William and Joseph Rawes and the Rawes Academy was a well established Bromley institution. Richard Rawes died aged 72 and his burial register entry in 1814 describes him as a Gentleman.
In the surviving 1801 Census of Bromley Kent Online Parish Clerks transcript  Richard Rawes Academy contained 124 males and 9 females and it is reasonable to conclude that over 100 boys were boarded. Bromley was a pleasant country town with good coach connections and had attracted reputable surgeons to the town and had attracted Jane Austen to describe the Bell Inn favourably in Pride and Prejudice.
Medical care for the Rawes Academy is documented in the dispensing and accounts ledger of Doctor Thomas Ilott whose surgery was in the High Street facing the Bell Inn.Doctor Ilott between 1809 and 1811 records treatment of many named pupils and occasionally staff members.The Rawes account is headed Messrs Rawes's Academy in the Folio C ledger deposited at Bromley Archive.
Whilst we may never know of Dickens familiarity with Bromley,the Wellers or Robert Booth Rawes there are many references in local history of the town to the tradition that the author drew upon Robert Booth Rawes in his first novel for Pickwick.